Sunday, March 12, 2000

Winter of 1999-00 warmest on record

It's third new mark in a row; Why? La Nina

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — This winter has been the warmest on record since the government began keeping weather statistics 105 years ago, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

        Analyzing data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., researchers said seasonal temperatures from December to February averaged 38.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.6 degrees warmer than the previous record, which was set just last year.

        The scientists attributed the warm temperatures to La Nina, a weather phenomenon related to cooler than normal temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. The researchers couldn't say whether the warm winter had any link to a “greenhouse effect” caused by pollution into the atmosphere.

        In fact, the last three winters have been the warmest on record in the United States — a pattern established in 1980, the scientists said. Since then, 67 percent of the winter seasons have been warmer than the long-term average.

        Many states from the northern Plains to New England set records for the latest date of their first seasonal snowfall, latest date without a temperature below freezing, longest snow-free period, or longest period between sub-zero temperatures.

        However, NOAA spokesman Greg Hernandez said the specific state-by-state temperature data would not be available until Monday. Only the general trends for the country were immediately available, he said.

        It has been an overall warm winter, despite a brief cold spell in the Northeast that in part caused severe shortages of heating oil and soaring prices in late January and early February.

        Hundreds of daily maximum temperature records were broken across the country in February.

        In Cincinnati, for example, records were broken on Feb. 25, when the temperature hit 75 degrees, and tied on Feb. 26, when the high was 73. The average high for those dates is 44 degrees.

        Every state in the continental U.S. was warmer than its long-term average, with 21 states from California to the Midwest ranking well above normal.

        This winter also has been a dry one — 16th driest on record.

        Worldwide, temperatures were the sixth warmest on record, following the two warmest winters set in the past two years, NOAA analysis showed.


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